From the Archive: May 31, 2007
[Re: A-Rod's yell disrupts catching a popup]
I don't know how many of you, if any, watch the games on mlb dot com. but in lieu of commercials, they play a single promo for 'dick's sporting goods' at every inning break. the commercial consists of various fans in different team merchandise saying what its all about. a group of Sox fans, in their defective accents, say 'its about nevah giving up', to which a single Sox fan, a hip looking twenty something, adds 'nevah evah.'
while that is obnoxious, and is making me want to pull out my remaining hairs, the yankee fan in the promo is equally annoying. he's your friendly neighborhood wiseguy, who stares menacingly at the camera, and says, slowly, letting each word, and the latent threat they contain, sink in- 'its about doing.. what it takes.. to win."
this suggests, of course, that nothing, and certainly no code of ethics, will stand in the way of achieving the ultimate goal- the victory.
I do not mean to suggest that this is characteristic of the yankee fan, or of anyone, for that matter, except the marketers at dick's. frankly, I don't care if even that's true.
but I think my brother makes a good point, (even though my dad would call him a 'monist' for it- don't' worry about what that means), and I think it amounts to agreeing with the dicks wiseguy.
an important question to answer is whether there should be such a thing as unwritten rules at all. In response, I would ask: what's the harm in writing them? To say they should (and by 'should' I mean 'should') remain unwritten is, as far as I can tell, to desire some transcendent notion of ethics and honor in place of the rule of law.
why would one wish this? In a scenario where ethics, virtue, duty, and honor are norms rather than rules, there is no external check on one acting honorably or virtuously; there is just one's internal sense of it, and one owns subjective wish to act this way. but precisely for this reason, it can be skirted by those who do not have that wish, and what is worse, as a consequence, it is not enforced equitably, but instead is something that happens only whenever someone feels like it.
some may yell 'hah', or 'mine', if the desire arises, and some may not. steroids may be dishonorable, but not illegal (or treated as illegal by the relevant powers), and so some people do it, and some don't, in which case there arises inequality of opportunity for achievement- that is to say, unfairness.
it is cultures that define honor and other such values and virtues. but even in a 'clubhouse culture' that may act as a unifying force, human ballplayers come from different cultures, some were taught right from wrong, others weren't. but this shouldn't matter, precisely because when they are all playing baseball they play by the same rules.
one might say that an unwritten code is self-legislating, and does carry consequence's, and that a clubhouse culture provides all the enforcement one needs; a-rod, for example, will be beaned, and a player who slides dirty into second will see his teammate receive the same treatment. But this is just eye-for-an-eye vengeance, and not a legal penalty. why leave the enforcement of unwritten rules- and vengeance- to chance, or to culture, or to a teammate who may or may not like you and care about sticking up for you? (sometimes mike mussina forgets to throw inside, for example.) why leave up to culture and chance what can be codified, and then enforced equitably? if an act is considered something worthy of punishment, as my brother micah suggests, then what does it hurt to make it a rule which guarantees a penalty ? I dont know what soccer flopping is, but if its anything like soccer, i'm sure its bad (sorry. I had to go there.)
look. in iraq right now, what one has, among other things, are a bunch of cultures each trying to impose their values and their dubious and dangerously destructive notions of honor on each other, in lieu in living in a society ruled by law. I think a little law, and respect for fair and equal treatment, would go a long way.
is the goal of the sport to act honorably, or to win? i'm concerned that in much of the ahem, developing, ahem, pre-civilized world, the point of living is for one's culture to enjoy some cockamamie notion of honor and pride, (and so everything that any other country or culture does in its own interest becomes some sort of humiliation)
but the point of playing baseball games is not to bring honor to your team or your family or your ancestors, but to win. if honor happen as a result of winning, that's fine. but that's a consequence of the ends, not the end itself. if a ballplayer shouldn't do something, then make a law against it, and have it count against winning.
also, because its getting late in the day, I won't write my Nietzschean/ Spenglerian counterpoint to this dilly. suffice it to say that those teuton philosophers wouldn't agree. they like supermen who are above the law, who are thereby able to craft a new ethics and culture as they go, and who consider an abundance of legislation as stultifying and antithetical to the vital spirit that distinguishes the worthy and strong from the weak herd.
for them, law is the death of culture. I guess I just put a positive spin on that.